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China 'had express post' in 221 BC

China's postal service may have a long history
China's postal service may have a long history  

BEIJING, China -- China had an express postal service as long ago as 221 BC according to archaeologists studying recently discovered Imperial documents, state media reported Friday.

The revelation is the latest discovery by archaeologists studying the contents of a Qin Dynasty (221- 207 BC) archive found in a disused well in the southern province of Hunan.

The archive, written on some 20,000 slips of bamboo, has already given important clues about the evolution of China's writing system and could prove to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the past century, experts say.

The bundles of slips were found in June, since when experts have been painstakingly cleaning and studying them.

According Xinhua news agency, some of the slips in the archive contain the characters "Kuai Xing" (fast delivery), leading experts to believe they were sent through an express Qin Dynasty postal service.

Archive holds clues to Chinese calligraphy 

"Judging from the meaning of the two characters, we could say there was already some kind of 'express mail service' more than 2,200 years ago," the agency quoted historian Wu Rongzeng as saying.

Among other aspects of life gleaned from the archive, are indications of a particularly strict administrative system.

Wu added that several of the slips carried words such as "loan," "payment" and "penalty," which he said revealed the strictness of the political and legal system in the Qin Dynasty.

According to Xinhua the founder of the Qin empire, Emperor Qin Shi Huang, was one of the most ruthless rulers in Chinese feudal history, enslaving millions of laborers to build such monuments as the Great Wall and his imposing imperial palace and mausoleum.

Historians believe his merciless rule contributed partly to the short life of the dynasty, which lasted only 14 years, the agency said.

Because of that short period relatively few documents exist giving clues to what life was like under Qin rule.

According to Wu the slips reveal among other things that residents unable to pay debts to the government had to compensate with hard labor.




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